I was collecting large family articles on Pinterest the other day. I did a search and came up with a wide range of blog posts, and for some reason many on how to make kids feel special in large families. I didn’t pin any. I may eventually read one or two, just to find out what the suggestions are and maybe what the negatives are supposed to be, for children blessed with 3 or more siblings. (What is large anyway?!)
Just now as I have been thinking about this I realise something. It is possible for children in any size family to lack in personal relationship or connection with their parents. Sharing our love with Even More children does not diminish its quality or depth. It’s not watered down by the time it reaches our younger children. Actually I feel as though I have had much more opportunity to step back and value my relationships with all of my children as individuals and seeing their differences and similarities in this way helps me to keep all of those relationships growing, and individual children valued exactly for who they are.
I am making this up as I go along. By that I mean I don’t have a manual, a formula or step by step guide to follow in raising my children. Our style and practice has grown and developed since day 1. If we don’t grow or change in that time as parents, either we are actually absolutely perfect or…
We have an overview. To parent the way we feel God our father parents us. With love, kindness, grace, peace, patience, wisdom… to teach gently. We are constantly striving to those aims. Within that overview we do what we can to ensure our children are assured of their identity in Christ, our heavenly Father’s love for them, and their safety and love within our family.
Here are some ways we honour our children as individuals, encourage them, fill their cup and enrich their relationships with us as well as build self worth:
Looking all the while for opportunities to love them in all 5 ‘love languages’: time, touch, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts. Gary Chapman’s book on this subject is worth reading for all kinds of reasons.
Special time with names on it! We have always called things special names. If you call it a thing kids love it. So ‘special mummy and Ben time’ ‘special daddy and girls time’, ‘mummy bush walks’ (also known as city shopping trips), all of those things and more. We can celebrate the most ordinary of family outings by making them into a thing.
Making sure we fill the cups of those who are struggling. We don’t punish and we don’t reward. And the child who is struggling may not seem worthy of special time. The reverse is true. They need it more.
Encouraging all of the members of the family to gather around another who is struggling. Sometimes we call this a ‘Blessing Day’. Kids are right. One birthday a year just isn’t enough. Half year birthdays are a good time for this but we don’t have hard and fast rules – spontaneity works well for our family.
Letter writing. I write the children letters of encouragement. Sometimes to all of the bigger ones, sometimes in an exchange of letters to one of them. We love surprise letters. I have a glimpse of their little world when I read those.
Talking time. Our eldest in particular loves to come and talk to me when we have done bedtime. I have a practice of always being available then. He needs it and when the others are older they will too. We must listen now and have these practices in place.
Sleepovers. Especially since we started sleeping on the floor ourselves (still supposed to be temporary) having different children in for a sleepover on their mattress (or all of them!) has been a fun and often experience. Balancing our own quality time is still possible and the balance is fine. But the children find that so special, even moreso the older ones. Again… We are investing in the future by being available and having an open door now.
Publicly acknowledging and affirming. When our children have done something special or there is something to commend, we will tell the whole family as we are eating dinner, for example. So our whole family can celebrate and acknowledge that thing. We might also do this in conversations with others outside our family. This is in particular an important way for wives to acknowledge their husbands. I am taking that idea and extending it to my children. In particular the boys will benefit from this.
Responsibility. All of our children respond well to being given responsibility for real things. Things that make our family work. Like food. If they cook a meal for our family it is a wonderful achievement for them, and they hear everyone’s real appreciation as we eat. Today as we expressed joy and delight at Mr 10’s French Onion Soup at lunch time I realised how blessed they are learning to cook with that sort of appreciation and genuine delight over their resulting family meals. We respond genuinely to all of the resulting benefits to our family team from the very real contribution they make to our household.
Birthday Letters. Each child receives a birthday letter, celebrating their year and with words encouragement and affirmation. We are now also making birthday movies with clips of video, photos and special music as part of the birthday blessing. Everyone loves their special movie.
I am sure there is more. But I see the numbers in our house as being in our favour. We have even more opportunity to bless and be blessed. We are all extravagantly blessed.
It is kind of people to suggest that I go charity shopping for clothes for our family. If they think I haven’t thought of that. The chances are, that with 6 children, a student budget, and a permanent position as wardrobe mistress to my family, I would have considered and most likely tried it.
I feel awkward in those conversations when it is suggested. Often the suggestion to buy our clothes this way comes as a ‘should’. Or the person suggesting it does it successfully for their family. I know some people who just seem to have an amazing gift for finding bargains that they actually want in charity shops. It always makes me feel bad that I don’t do it, and that they think I should.
My first point can’t be made very easily, and is likely to be confronting. Here it is: just because we don’t have a large income, and do have a big family, doesn’t mean we have to wear tatty clothes, or that having new things is an irresponsible use of our finances. This isn’t ever said aloud, but has been the sub text a few times in conversation on this topic. It is also pretty obvious to me when 5 bin bags of stuff is dumped on my doorstep and I feel an obligation to go through it all… Which takes a lot of time… And I discover a) it’s not all clean and b) a lot of it would be put in the rags pile by said charity shop. So why was it good enough for me? (I once read an article called “why I don’t give crap to the poor” and it was fantastic. People have dumped an inordinate amount of crap on us. I add it to the pile of our own junk that we are recycling or throwing away, if it isn’t donateable).
I have a clothes budget. It’s pretty low, but I have the ability to choose whether to pay a certain amount for an item of clothing or not. If it is what we need, I can buy it if the money is there.
Less is more. Maybe I don’t want 15 tops for each of my daughters. 7 or 8 will do, so I don’t have to go looking for second hand ones, I can buy the ones I do want at prices I am happy to pay. Such as in a sale. And then I might ‘buy ahead’ if I have funds and it is a good plan at the time. Or I might not.
I think charity shops can be over priced. Especially compared to good deals from quality shops in sales.
I have 3 boys and 3 girls. So we hand down all our clothes. I keep the clothes in great condition, never tumble except only on low VERY rarely and the clothes last us and are used well.
Boys wear their clothes pretty hard, especially trousers. Decent boys’ clothes don’t exist in many charity shops. They are often worn out and not even handed down in our family. And that’s ok.
We are given some second hand clothes. I keep the ones that will work in our wardrobes and fit with our needs. This frees up some money for good quality new additions… At the right price, with the budgeted money… Etc.
Sizes. This is currently a problem. Second hand clothes, especially if they have been tumble dried, don’t always fit the size it says on the label. It is very annoying for me to have size 6 clothes that don’t fit my 5yo, and need to be worn by the 3yo. It doesn’t help the girls manage their clothes, and it doesn’t help anyone else help them. I am being ruthless about this right now.
I have 6 children. I don’t have time to waste going shopping all of the time in the hope of bargains. I want to go out with a list and get all I need in one or maybe two shops. In one afternoon or morning. For all 6 children. Who would most likely all be with me. This works amazingly. It does not work in charity shops.
I have so many pressures on my time. I can’t spend it all shopping. The saving is small and counter productive. In my experience. The way I do it.
My oldest child is 12. I’ve been buying his clothes for 12 years. I am good at it. I also respect his (and the others’) taste, preferences, and desire to choose. If your eldest child is 6 or 7, and especially if they are a girl, you just won’t understand why I have not pursued charity shopping for my kids’ clothes.
I find charity shops chaotic and disorganised. I don’t like the smell. It’s not an environment that works for me.
Being intentional about our wardrobes saves us money in any event.
Being intentional about just about everything, saves us money and I can budget for my preference in not charity shopping.
I save money in ways others don’t. And that’s fine! Washable nappies, menu planning, strict grocery budget, reusable cloths instead of kitchen towel… It all adds up. I don’t have to justify myself explaining these things to someone who thinks I need to be buying second hand clothes. I generally don’t go around telling people they should be washing nappies or saving money on baby wipes and kitchen towel at mealtimes. But those things save an incredible amount of cash.
My children are well dressed and it makes them feel good. They are taking care of their appearance and it is part of their self worth.
We have no debt. Low income but no debt. We can budget our income in the ways that suit our family and work towards our values.
I care about fair trade and slave labour. I know that is a good reason not to buy clothes new. But the times I have really tried to do this, again, usually just after someone’s helpful ‘should’ comment… Haven’t been blessed.
Marks and Spencer school polo shirts are really cheap and they post to Australia for free. Their socks are also great and a third of the price of Australian socks. Another saving.